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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, September 28, 2006

Lab School slowly rising from ashes of June's blaze

 •  No arrests, no leads in UH Lab School arson

By Loren Moreno
Advertiser Staff Writer

University Laboratory School is beginning to see progress following a fire that destroyed a building in June, with four new temporary buildings expected on campus by the end of November and new orchestra instruments already arriving, officials said.

The temporary structures are expected to cost $850,000 and will go where a heaping mound of debris still sits on the charter school's campus. The remains of the destroyed building, which housed the school's performing arts and athletic programs, are expected to be removed no later than November, said Kathy Cutshaw, vice chancellor for administration, finance and operations at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa.

About half of the instruments the school ordered to replace thousands of dollars' worth lost in the fire have arrived, said Peter Estomago, interim Lab School principal. The rest of them are expected early next week, but students won't begin using them until they are processed and inventoried, he said.

"We lost a building where more than 200 students had their classes," said Estomago. "With the four double-portables, we will have facilities we will be able to use regularly."

LEAD FOUND

Debris disposal was slowed when preliminary testing indicated the presence of lead, Cutshaw said. Following further testing, officials determined that only a portion about two classrooms of the debris needs to be treated as hazardous waste and shipped to the Mainland for disposal. The rest of the debris can be disposed of on-island, she said.

The temporary buildings will be about 1,790 square feet, enough to house two classes, said UH-Manoa spokesman Jim Manke.

The university has not determined when, or if, the 67-year-old destroyed building will be rebuilt, he said.

Estomago said the school has had to shift classes that were once held in the destroyed building to other classrooms.

"We looked at the schedules, and (in rooms) where we did not have classes, we basically filled them throughout the day," he said.

While awaiting the new instruments, orchestra director Kevin Olafsson has been teaching music appreciation and theory courses, said Deborah Kelsey, head of performing arts at the Lab School.

"The instruments are coming in. (The students) are very anxious to start playing, but that can't happen until we get everything in," she said.

INSURANCE HELPED

The cost of the replacement instruments was not immediately available. Both the instruments and the portable classrooms are being paid for with insurance money, Manke said. The university has received $250,000 from the state and $1.75 million from the university's insurance company so far, said Cutshaw.

Fire officials have estimated damage at $6 million for the building and $500,000 for contents, and school officials have said those figures could go up.

Reach Loren Moreno at lmoreno@honoluluadvertiser.com.